ROTC sails into USF
Not many junior Naval ROTC participants can lay claim to being on first name terms with the secretary of the U.S. Navy like 17-year-old Billy Young can. This fall, Young, son of U.S. Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young, will become one of the first students recruited to USF’s new Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit.
Gordon England, secretary of the U.S. Navy, was chief among a number of distinguished guests present at a dedication service in the College of Education building Monday commemorating the establishment of the 58th Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit.
With the creation of the Naval ROTC, USF joins a select band of universities that have ROTC programs for all three branches of the armed services. Congressman Young, Chief of Naval Education and Training Vice Admiral Alfred Harms and John Margolis, president of the Association of Naval ROTC Colleges and Universities were among the other guests present.
The dedication service, hosted by USF president Judy Genshaft, commenced with the Parade of Colors by the University of Florida Naval ROTC unit and the playing of “Stars and Stripes.”
England said the importance of programs such as the ROTC in producing high-caliber officers could not be overstated.
“For 226 years, the enduring strength of our military has been our people,” England said. “The ROTC program is another opportunity for us to prepare our young people for their future as military officers and citizens of the United States to take this great nation forward.”
The siting of a ROTC unit at USF, said England, would enhance the university.
“It adds another dimension to the university. It helps to complete a university in terms of having military education on campus,” England said.
Genshaft thanked Congressman Young who, as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has championed a variety of partnerships between the federal government and USF, including the $1 million needed to start the Naval ROTC unit. Genshaft said the establishment of the unit was manifest evidence of USF’s support for the U.S. military.
“This is a landmark day in the history of USF,” Genshaft said. “The fact that all three branches of the U.S. military have ROTC units at USF is a very visible indicator of our university’s national character and our role in the national defense.”
Margolis said the progress of many ROTC graduates offered a clear demonstration of the value of the program to the Navy.
“Today (the program) provides roughly one third of newly commissioned officers for the Navy and Marine Corps. What is more, those officers rise to the most senior positions in these services.”
Congressman Young paid tribute to the contribution USF has made by supporting the U.S. military in a variety of fields.
“A lot of things that are being done (at the university) relate to the health and well-being of our men and women in the military. Whether that is technology, sensors or healthcare,” he said.
At the end of his speech, Congressman Young presented a U.S. flag from Washington to Capt. Richard L. Dick, who will lead the Naval ROTC unit at USF, the first standalone unit to be established in 15 years.
Participants in the ROTC program, first established in 1926, receive full tuition and fees, plus a minimum of $250 per-month subsistence allowance. Participants are free to choose any academic major but must complete a prescribed core cirruculum. Following successful completion of the program and graduation, Naval ROTC participants typically take up commissioned officer roles. Dick said he was optimistic the USF program would have up to 15 students enrolled by the beginning of the fall semester. Margolis said the unique appeal of ROTC programs is that they allow military and civilian students to develop side-by-side, providing an exposure to, and fostering an understanding of, each other’s perspectives.
The dedication service concluded with the playing of the Navy anthem “Anchors Aweigh” and the cutting of a commemorative cake by Congressman Young, Dick and Genshaft accompanied by England.
Billy Young, one of the guests of honor at the dedication, said afterward that ROTC programs provide an attractive alternative to military academies for young people interested in a military career.
“I have been in the junior ROTC for four years, and I want to continue with a career in the Navy, so this is really exciting for me,” Young said.